On January 1, 2018, two major changes to California’s family leave laws went into effect. Now, California workers can get paid a higher percentage of their normal income when on family leave, and employees of small businesses can now get unpaid leave.
According to these changes, when workers take time off to care for sick family members, bond with new children, or if they miss work because of pregnancy, sickness or injury, they can get paid higher weekly benefits from California’s paid family leave and disability insurance programs.
These increased benefits are thanks to Assembly Bill 908, signed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2016. The bill increases wage replacement benefits from the former 55% to either 60 or 70%, depending on income. Depending on a worker’s earnings, weekly benefits will range between $50 and $1,216.
The bill also does away with the one-week waiting period that family leave claims previously had.
Workers can use California’s Employment Development Department online calculator to determine the benefits they may receive if they are eligible.
California is a leader in family leave as the first state to create a paid family leave program in 2002. The state provides benefits to workers who take time off to care for a seriously ill parent, child, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or registered domestic partner, in addition to new parents who take leave to bond with their child entering the family by birth, adoption, or foster care placement. These benefits are payable for up to six weeks in a 12-month period, and do not need to be taken all at once.
On the other hand, disability insurance benefits that offset lost earnings when workers are unable to work due to non-work-related illness, injury, pregnancy, or childbirth are payable for up to 52 weeks.
Both the disability insurance and the paid family leave programs are funded by State Disability Insurance payroll deductions.
While California’s family leave program was the first of its kind, not all workers were given protections to take leave without losing their job. Under Senate Bill 63, which Governor Brown signed in October, workers at companies with between 20 and 49 workers are guaranteed up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave. Eligible employees must have one year of experience and 1,250 hours on the job according to the bill. Workers at larger businesses with 50 or more employees have had these protections for more than 20 years under federal and state law. Bill 63 is estimated to affect around 2.8 million small business employees in California.
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